Category Archive: Featured Blog

  1. This Isn’t A “Lost Year”

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    John Stonestreet – Buzzfeed News is running a series of feature stories this month called “The Lost Year,” featuring profiles of how six people, of different ages and backgrounds have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The stories range from challenging to even, in some cases, devastating.

    Still, the title of this series is, I think, misleading. Is this really a “lost” year? Is there even such a thing?

    In the 17th Chapter of Acts, Luke describes what looks like, at first glance, a pause in Paul’s missionary efforts. After being run out of, first, Thessalonica and then Berea, Paul is stuck in Athens, waiting for Silas and Timothy to catch up. However, Luke describes Paul not as “impatient,” but as “greatly distressed” by the pornographic, violent, and quite extensive idol worship all around him in the city of Athens.

    His initial attempts to share the Gospel confuse his Epicurean and Stoic listeners, and so, given a chance to present in a more formal setting, Paul goes back to square one. There is only one God, Paul proclaims, one alone. He created everything. He wasn’t created by some sculptor, nor does He live anywhere made by human hands.

    The two opposing philosophical camps in Paul’s audience held differing views, particularly about the relationship between the gods and history. The Stoics believed the gods determined and controlled everything about our time and place, leaving no real room for human free will. The Epicureans, on the other hand, believed that after the gods created the world, they tired of it and lost interest, leaving human beings to their own devices. With no one watching, so to speak, people were left in a sort of moral free-for-all. “Eat, drink, and be merry,” as the saying goes, “for tomorrow we die.”

    It is in the context of these competing philosophies that Paul offers a fascinating and important insight about the one true God: “From one man He made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth. And He marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their dwelling place. He did this so that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him.” (emphasis added)

    In other words, to both the fatalist Stoics and the hedonistic Epicureans, Paul describes a God who is intimately involved in time and place so that we can find Him. In other words, it is no accident that we find ourselves in this time and this place. The God who created you intended the right now of every single human life. 

    What a crucial insight in a world that, since the pandemic, feels like it’s suspended in time. We’ve so much to mourn these last several months, especially the hundreds of thousands of people who have died, and the loved ones forced to miss funerals, as well as many weddings and births. We’ve watched as suicide rates have gone up, and the elderly and vulnerable have suffered in isolation. 

    But God wasn’t surprised by this. This is hard, but if Paul is correct, this time in history isn’t an interruption. It’s not a lost year.

    Throughout the pandemic, there are many stories of Christians finding innovative ways to seize the opportunities in front of them. Samaritan’s Purse set up an entire temporary hospital in New York City to treat the sick. Many churches pivoted to online services and never stopped reaching out to their neighbors. A few weeks ago, we shared about churches opening their doors for kids whose schools are closed, given them a place to do online schoolwork during the day while their parents work. None of these good works are done by those who shrug shoulders and chalk up inconvenience, tragedy, and challenge as “lost time.” 

    This moment God has determined for us is challenging and chaotic. But He also determined us for this moment. And He’s with us.

    This is no lost year.

  2. Is Christian Unity Possible With So Much Disagreement?

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    John Stonestreet – Last week, a listener who follows a lot of Christian podcasts, including BreakPoint, wrote us with the following question, troubled by the conflicting opinions among Christians. Here’s how she put it:

    “In most cases the Christian proponents seem to have a genuine love for Jesus and are trying to live out their belief faithfully. Yet their conclusions and interpretation of the Scriptures are often diametrically opposed…If intelligent, well educated, sincere Christians can come to such different interpretations of Scripture, how can I possibly hope to come to a correct understanding of the Truth?”

    Given the hurt, anger, and even violence on streets across America right now, not to mention all of our social media news feeds, I imagine this person isn’t the only one wondering about the unity that Christ prayed for in the Garden, as recorded in John 17. “All mine are yours,” Jesus prayed, “and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.”

    Why Christians don’t get along is certainly not a new question, but I do think it’s changed a bit. As recently as a couple years ago, the struggle was mostly about theological positions or denominational points of emphasis. Today, the context has more to do with politics and culture. This is not to say that the stakes are higher now than then or vice versa. Because Christianity is, at heart, a worldview centered on the incarnation of the Son of God, both what you believe and how you live matter. There’s a substance and an application to our biblical and theological understanding.

    One feature of today’s discourse, however, is how quickly conflict can escalate, and not just in tone but also in assuming bad character of others. We welcome feedback on our BreakPoint commentaries and, of course, we get it. Last week, many people took issue with one commentary in particular, for which I am solely responsible. I expected and received disagreement, as well as some name calling and accusations about my character.

    Now, to be perfectly clear, I slept just fine. The larger point is that the cliché, that Christians are better known for what we’re against than what we are for, needs to be updated. Increasingly today, we are better known for being against each other than for each other. Not only does this cripple what Jesus said would be among the most effective tools of Christian witness to the world, “by this all people will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,” but it can harm the faith of some within the Church as well.

    Love, and we must be clear about this, should never be reduced to mere niceness. Nor does it mean that we should never disagree with one another. Ideas have consequences and bad ideas have victims. There’s too much at stake. Still, if we’re to follow Fr. Robert Sirico’s counsel to “be ruthless with ideas and gentle with people” there are a few things to keep in mind.

    First, though it seems that Christians disagree on much, we actually agree on most of the core tenants of the Christian faith. Theologically speaking, we may differ on who to baptize when, but Christians largely agree on what baptism is about. We might disagree on which aspects of the Holy Spirit’s work to emphasize today, but not that the Holy Spirit is working. We agree that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that He died on the cross and rose from the dead, sits at the right hand of the throne of God, and is Lord of Lords. Our disagreements, of course, matter. And sometimes, theological error pushes some outside of anything that can rightly be called orthodox, but the Church has been largely consistent on the most important theological doctrines.

    Second, those theological convictions that are core, should be kept that way. Today, too many secondary issues, especially on how best to apply Christian morality and truth to the public square, have been made primary. Now hear me clearly, secondary issues are important as well, and we should debate them. Those ideas have consequences and victims, too. But we are far too quick to make secondary issues primary and to dismiss those on the other side of us as being evil.

    Finally, the Scriptures are just as clear about how we are to communicate what is true as it is that we should communicate what is true. We need to get better at this. In a world that is hesitant to embrace anything as true, we must show them how to do it. Atheist philosopher Frederick Nietzsche once remarked, “All truths are bloody truths to me.” That doesn’t strike me as a Christian sentiment. Certainly all truth is worth standing for and, sometimes, fighting for. But not all of our convictions are worth wounding others for.

  3. The Post-Pandemic Church

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    John Stonestreet – Restaurants, theaters, sports teams, and theme parks are scrambling to figure out if and how they can get people back to business. At the same time, and far more important for many of us, churches are trying to figure out how to reopen, too.

    Not only are such plans complicated by official regulations and recommendations that differ from state to state and even county to county, but different theologies and worship styles matter as well. More sacramental churches that emphasize participatory worship and weekly communion face certain challenges, and massive congregations with huge crowds face others. Some congregations consist of a high number of “at-risk” members due to age or other factors. Some don’t.

    After navigating all of these challenges, it’s still not clear just how many people will be willing to show up. And, all of this is being navigated in the context of differing opinions. Just about every church is made up of some members who are fearful, others who are convinced that the threat of Covid-19 was overblown, and others somewhere in-between. Everyone has opinions, and some think theirs are matters of orthodoxy.

    All of this means, according to Baylor historian Philip Jenkins, people in the future will think about church in terms of “BC…Before Coronavirus,” and after.

    The key factor in Jenkin’s fascinating analysis is what we might call “pre-existing conditions.” In other words, in many ways, the coronavirus hasn’t so much created problems for the Church as it has revealed and accelerated them. One particular “pre-existing condition” that Jenkins believes will be accelerated by this crisis is secularization, especially in the United States.

    To be clear, “secularization” is not the same as atheism or even “a decline or destruction of faith.” Rather, as Jenkins writes, it’s “a decline of religious institutions, and a decisive shift in religious practice to individual and privatized forms.” In other words, secularization takes personal faith and makes it private, often by making us more and more religiously unaffiliated.

    So, Jenkins thinks it is quite possible that “the U.S. in the 2020s [will] witness a rapid secular trend comparable to Western Europe in the 1960s,” in which church attendance declines and religious conviction is seen as less appropriate for the public square.

    “Historically,” writes Jenkins, “pandemics and diseases have often played a major role in shaping religion, in undermining older religious establishments,” and we live in a time where institutions are already weak. Even if the coronavirus sparks a revival in personal piety or privatized faith, Jenkins suggests that institutions will be weakened, not strengthened.

    Part of the challenge is, of course, financial. That alone, Jenkins predicts, will lead to “a new age of church closures and mergers.” A recent Washington Post article described the severe financial effects of this pandemic already felt by churches.

    Churches that are able to weather the economic storm face the very real possibility that people will prefer watching services online instead of being physically present. It’s a poor substitute for the real thing, but our culture’s veneration of personal choice plus performance-driven church services that were already largely experienced on screens could prove a deadly combination to Sunday morning church attendance.

    Another way to say this is, for many Christians, church was already considered “non-essential.” That official label, though given for purposes of efficiency and categorization, should concern anyone who thinks of the Christian faith as the truth.

    Jenkins’ predictions, he admits, are controversial. As historian Kyle Harper reminded Rod Dreher, the third century “Plague of Cyprian” weakened Roman institutions and helped paved the way for the triumph of Christianity. Another plague in the sixth century indirectly lead to the Christianizing of Britain. This virus is changing all kinds of different aspects of culture, besides the Church. So, it remains to be seen just what might come of all this.

    More importantly, there are other “preexisting conditions” that pre-date late-modern Western culture. For example, Paul warned Timothy of persecution and tribulation, and that some would “fall away” from the faith during those times. Yet, the most important pre-existing condition is the resurrected Christ who promised the gates of Hell could not prevail against His Church.

    From that solid foundation we can best think about this cultural moment and what the future will hold, but we mustn’t assume that life After Coronavirus will be the same as life before it, especially for the Church.

  4. What Should You Be Focused On During A Crisis?

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    Focus is essential in times of crisis. I met with an executive coach and asked one question, “What should I, as a ministry CEO, be focused on in the middle of this crisis?” 

    Based on our conversation here are a few points of focus for every leader to consider in the uncertain landscape we are navigating right now.


    There is no better guide in a crisis than God. His ways are higher than our ways. His word always accomplishes what He sends it out to do (read Isaiah 55). I called a very effective business leader who has been heavily impacted by COVID-19 just to encourage him. He spent the whole time sharing with me what God was teaching him through scripture, prayer, and being faithful. I left the conversation with the profound understanding that this leader trusted God to guide. Let’s do the same.


    In crisis, Leaders tend to double down on their strengths while avoiding dealing in areas of weakness. This is a natural thing to do. Leaders need to be honest about this dynamic and surround themselves with people who can provide a wholistic response to the crisis.


    Keeping a high-quality team together through the crisis and beyond is key to surviving a storm and rebuilding afterwards. Keep this in mind when working through deep cuts to save money and guard cash. Consider ways that there can be shared sacrifices through the crisis and shared rewards in the rebuilding following.


    Be sure to know how much cash you have to work with. At the same time, get a handle on the spend rate of the business.  Knowing these two things, cash & spend, are critical in developing a crisis economic model. Frequently update the cash and spend model to help maximize the fiscal staying power in a prolonged crisis.


    Take time to think through what cuts need to be when and in what priority. The intentionality of this planning helps provide a basis for healthy decision making and communication for everyone involved.


    It is a good discipline to look at the current strategic plan in light of the crisis and ask a few questions:

    • What should we hold off and not do right now?
    • What parts of the plan require mitigation because of the pandemic impacts?
    • Is there any part of the plan that should be accelerated?
    • What is the increase and focus of communication as a result of the pandemic?


    Resist the temptation to handle too much on your own. This is a time to draw the Board of Directors closer, while keeping good governance boundaries in place. Remember that Boards really do want the ministry to be effective for the long haul.

    Leadership in crisis requires disciplined focus on the right things that only you, as a leader, can help focus on. Lead with peace and a quiet confidence because of who God is. He will give you the capacity to walk through.

    Ed McDowell is the CEO of Warm Beach Camp. He has extensive experience in overseeing and directing ministry organizations, including stewardship development, personnel and organizational management.

  5. Truth, Love and Stones Of Remembrance

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    John Stonestreet, with David Carlson – “Remember the calamity of the Great Tsunamis. Do not build any homes below this point.” Those are the words inscribed on what are appropriately called “Tsunami stones,” markers left by previous generations in Japan that warn future generations of difficult lessons learned.

    After decades with no tsunamis, especially given new technologies such as better seawalls and flood-proof construction, these kinds of warnings were increasingly seen more as relics from the past than wisdom from the past. They became easier to ignore and, as a result, in 2011, many perished.

    The villagers of Aneyoshi, however, heeded the instructions their forebears placed on a tsunami stone in the 1930s, and they moved their village to higher ground. They not only survived the 2011 tsunami, but the one in 1960 as well.

    When I learned about these stones recently from a friend, I immediately thought of a parable by G. K. Chesterton about those committed always to reform:

    “… let us say, for the sake of simplicity, (there’s) a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, ‘I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.’ To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: ‘If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.’”

    In other words, we should never remove a fence until we know why it was put up in the first place.

    There’s no doubt we live in a culture that’s quite committed to clearing away all kinds of moral fences in all areas of culture, often replacing them with new fences in new places. What used to be unthinkable is now unquestionable. What used to be unquestionable is now thought of as quaint, puritanical, and in some cases, oppressive and evil. What used to belong to families now belongs to the state. The guilty are now victims; the good guys now the bad guys; the essential now non-essential.

    Even in the Church today, perhaps especially in the Church, there’s a great temptation to move fences, to lower or remove moral standards in a well-intentioned, but often misguided, attempt to be “welcoming.” Almost always, these moves are made in the name of “love,” as if the key missional strategy of the Church is to remove any and all barriers to the Gospel, including any that are inherent and essential to the Gospel itself.

    Often the tsunami stones of moral truth, which the Church has embraced and taught faithfully for 2,000 years, are seen as obstacles to progress. The first and greatest commandment to “love God,” at least as we’ve long understood it, seems to be in conflict with the second one of “loving neighbor.” Truth and love are increasingly seen as incompatible in the fog of secularism and moral relativism. Believing the truth about human sexuality, which went unquestioned in Christian history until yesterday, is considered unloving. Speaking that truth? Well, that’s downright cruel.

    This, of course, gets it exactly backwards. What’s cruel, if moral realities do exist and if we live in a world designed and not accidental, is to remove fences and ignore stones. It’s cruel to tell someone who’s not okay that they are. It is not only possible to be loving and to tell the truth, it is in fact, impossible to be loving without the truth. Learning to hold truth and love together, especially in a culture committed to their divorce, is now a key task of the Church.

    In a wonderful scene near the beginning of C. S. Lewis’s “The Silver Chair,” Aslan is preparing a young Jill Pole for a rescue mission in Narnia. His instructions are clear, but his instructions about his instructions, even more clear:

    “…first, remember, remember, remember the signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. . . And secondly, I give you a warning. Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind… Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters.”

    If this reminds you of God’s instructions to Israel in Deuteronomy, it should. Most of the Bible is about remembering. There is no way to live out what God has taught us and called us to, no way to love God or neighbor, without remembering.

  6. The Seamless Life

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    John Stonestreet – What do an M&M factory in Virginia, a boardroom on Madison Avenue, the slave ship of John Newton, a U2 concert, and a cattle auction in Colorado have in common? Well, of course, each one is part of the “every square inch” over which Christ claims sovereignty, but each is also a subject of reflection in a tremendous new book by one of the wise and trusted sages in my life, Dr. Steven Garber.

    His new book, “The Seamless Life: A Tapestry of Love & Learning, Worship & Work,“ is now yet another piece of Steve’s writing to mentor and challenge my thinking. His first book, “The Fabric of Faithfulness” is an essential resource for anyone involved in education as a Christian. And even if you are not, his description of the Christian worldview in that book is easily among the best I know of.

    This soft-spoken Regent College professor will tell you that his life and writing and thinking and leading have all been part of his exploration of what it means to live all life under Christ’s lordship; all of it, even in the most ordinary of places and relationships and professions.

    In “The Seamless Life,” Garber explores how to live a life that is connected, not disconnected. Throughout the book Steve weaves in and out of an amazing array of illustrations—of people he’s met, both in person and in history, of movies and plays and songs and works of art, of honest cowboys and prayerful candy executives. And each short chapter begins with a photograph, most of them taken by Steve’s own hand, of the places or people he’s writing about.

    In one of my favorite chapters, Steve shares memories of the grandparents he spent his summers with as a boy in Cortez, Colorado. He knew they took their Scottish Presbyterian faith quite seriously by witnessing and participating in their nightly liturgy of kneeling together for prayer. But, when Steve witnessed an auctioneer asking his grandfather the market price of a particular cow, and taking him at his word without hesitation, Steve knew his grandfather lived a Seamless Life, in which being a cattleman was fully integrated with being a Christian man.

    The book’s diverse and beautiful collage of insights, with its intellectually and theological rich devotional passages, are united by a single idea: Our work, in whatever corner of the world God has placed us, has a sacred quality. What we do for the good of our city or our company or our family or our neighbor is a tangible and real part of God’s project of making all things new. As the title of Steve’s book suggests, the transition from worship to work should be seamless.

    Of course, we face incredible challenges to this task on this side of the garden. Our world is broken, and it’s hard to live out the “already” of the Gospel bombarded and sometimes even crushed by the “not yet” of the Fall. And that’s where Steve introduces one of his favorite words, one he uses so often his students sometimes make fun of him for it: “proximate.”

    The dictionary defines proximate as that which is “closest in relationship,” or “immediate.” What Steve means by proximate is though we can’t fix the whole world by ourselves, that’s okay. We’re not called to do everything, certainly not those things that only God can do. But, we are called, as Christ modeled in His earthly ministry, to do “something that is right and good and true and just” here and now, where we’ve been placed; to help the people within our reach, to feed the hungry within our sight, to speak life to whomever we happen to meet at the well, and sometimes just to haul in a netful of fish and give God the glory.

    In other words, we’re called to do the things we can do, not the things we can’t.

    As Steve observes, “None of us can care for everything everywhere. So, we choose to care about something somewhere.” And, as the chapters progress, dealing with great works of literature and mundane parts of life and the world, it becomes clear that this caring is sacred. It is, in fact, the essence of a seamless life: to “ora et labora,” or “pray and work” whether our jobs are “agricultural or academic, whether we are plumbers or carpenters, whether our labor is the law or the marketplace, whether our days take us into hospitals or schools.

    Steve’s book is available here:

  7. A Christian View Of Suffering

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    John Stonestreet – In the whirlwind of moral balancing as the globe reacts to Coronavirus, we face pressing questions, from if and how to triage patients in the face of limited medical supplies, to how long we ought hobble the economy to curb the spread of the disease.

    These immediate questions are essential, but there are others, too: eternal and existential questions endemic to our humanity that tend to emerge in times like these. Why are we suffering? How can we deal with suffering? What does suffering mean?

    At this time, as the world deals with the spread of the Coronavirus, Christians have an opportunity to share one of our faith’s most unique pillars: Suffering is shocking, but it’s meaningful. Suffering is viewed quite differently within other religions, and it’s important to know that difference since every religion and every worldview must explain the world as it is.

    A fundamental premise of Buddhism, for example, is that life is suffering. As creatures of desire, we attach ourselves and tend to cling to things such as stuff, health, youth, love, and even life itself. Thus, in Buddhism, we are only delivered from suffering by ridding ourselves of the attachments of our desire.

    Not only does such a view deny any real distinction between what’s good and what’s bad—such as health and sickness, love and loneliness, or even life and death—it necessarily denies two things Christianity affirms: The goodness of creation and the possibility that the creation will be, as St. Paul put it, set free from corruption.

    While many Westerners play around with a sort of pop-Buddhism, the secular view of suffering is far more common here. In this view, suffering is real, and we certainly don’t like it, but we don’t really have the worldview foundation to make sense of it. Suffering interrupts our pleasure and happiness, but in a world without purpose or design, we can’t really say that’s wrong or bad or that it shouldn’t be.

    We believe, as those with the most resources in human history to avoid sickness and disaster and certain sufferings, that we somehow have a right not to suffer or, for that matter, to feel dissatisfaction or distress of any kind. But why would that be so, if the world is, as Richard Dawkins once put it, a place of “blind, pitiless indifference” and we are, as he also put it, merely “dancing to our DNA”?

    As Dr. John Lennox pointed out on a recent BreakPoint Podcast, suffering is utterly meaningless for a true atheist. It’s not good. It’s not bad. It’s just there.

    What about Christianity? Unlike Buddhism, Christianity doesn’t deny the objective goodness of the world, the objective nature of our suffering, nor the objective potential of restoration. St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15, called death “the last enemy,” which will be destroyed at Christ’s return.

    The author of Hebrews called the fear of death the means by which Satan enslaves men. And, most of all, Jesus seemed to identify with human suffering as something He literally felt in His guts. He entered the suffering of others, such as the mourning sisters of Lazarus in John 11, and He prayed to avoid suffering Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane.

    The Bible is clear, as is the example of Jesus, that suffering is bad and avoiding it isn’t possible. At the same time, suffering is not seen as meaningless (unlike in secularism). On both the personal and cosmic levels, suffering points to the realities of higher truths and greater goods but is ultimately not the story of creation.

    The One through whom all things were made drank from the same cup of suffering and death as all of us. The author of Hebrews says that He “tasted death for everyone.” And yet, rising from the grave three days later, Christ shows us that while suffering and death are real, they do not have the last word.

    As John Lennox writes in his marvelous new book “Where Is God in a Coronavirus World?” a Christian “is not a person who has solved the problem of suffering, but one who has come to love and trust the God who has suffered for them.” Christianity teaches neither resignation to suffering nor detachment from the world. Christianity neither denies the realities of suffering nor gives it more than its due. And so, Christianity alone offers a basis for hope, a true and firm “anchor for the soul.”

  8. Europe, Shaking Paradise

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    We are delighted to announce the Annual CBMC Europe 2020 Conference will be held in Jerusalem, Israel during the days of February 5-9. It promises to be a very special event and an incredible opportunity for you to invite a colleague or friend.  There will be time for worship, silence, reflection and meeting God. Our speakers will be sharing about business God’s way and offer workshops about being a Christian business person in the marketplace. Join us for an opportunity to meet with Messianic Jewish business people, European business friends and hear from inspiring speakers from Israel and Europe. For more details and to register, click here 

  9. Asia-Pacific, Ambassadors of Transformation

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    The 22nd Asia-Pacific Convention (held during the days of November 21-23) is geared to empower Christians in the workplace to be salt and light through their life and testimony in the marketplace. Becoming an Ambassador in your Workplace is the calling from Jesus to each of us found in Matthew 5:13-16.  The convention is hosted at the Sokha Hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. You will receive: (in bullet form)  CBMC Leadership Training, Become a courageous ambassador in your marketplace; Build networks among CBMC Asia-Pacific Countries; Strengthen your CBMC Team.  For more details and to register, click here

  10. Africa, Be The Light

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    The All-Africa CBMC Convention (held during the days of October 17-19) is geared to empower Christians in the workplace to share their testimony and deal with questions that challenge their faith. As society becomes more secular, Christians in the marketplace are finding it a greater challenge to share their faith and determine what it means to do business in a manner that reflects their Christian faith. Join us as we focus on how to “BE THE LIGHT – Mathew 5:16” in our workplace. The convention is hosted at the Lukenya Getaway Lodge, in Nairobi, Kenya. For more details and to register, click here.